Reflections

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The moment I stepped onto the dock one hot June day nearly 40 years ago, I knew I had come home. The lake, the forest, the little log cabin, the blueberries, the quiet… this is where I wanted to live.

It took a while to make that dream come true. I was fresh from the city, didn’t know much at all about keeping warm in winter. But I did know that I wasn’t likely to be able to make a life here by myself.  For the first few years, I commuted – spending the glorious summer days here at the lake, only to return to the city in September.

I finally found Allan in the early ’80s. He was living across the lake, and it soon became apparent that we both wanted to live here in the bush. We married in September of 1983 and spent the winter in my little log cabin as our honeymoon.

We took long walks in the autumn woods, we gathered wild mushrooms and cranberries. We brought in lots of firewood, and winterized the cabin. We spent the short winter days exploring the forest on skis and snowshoes, and the long winter nights playing cards and Scrabble.

With the arrival of spring, we tapped a dozen maple trees and spent hours over the open fire boiling down the sap. We were rewarded with a dozen jars of dark syrup with a wonderful smoky flavour.

Living far from the city, our expenses were few, but we did have expenses. We knew we wanted to keep living here, and we knew we would have to find a source of income. I thought maybe I could become a writer.

I found an old, cast-iron typewriter at the surplus store. It took a few months to get a new ribbon for it. Then it took a while longer to figure out what I was going to write about.

In the spring if 1984, the local paper was on strike. I saw this as an opportunity to break in to the world of life as writer. After all, the smaller community newspaper would be taking on a lot more advertising – surely, they would need some stories to accompany the ads?

I wrote up a piece on how to make maple syrup and took it in to the editor. She made a tentative offer for a weekly piece, and I was on my way! That first summer I wrote about wild foods and mosquitoes, dragonflies and blueberry wine. In autumn it was cranberries and mushrooms, and winter brought on stories about the lake freezing and the joys of skiing.

Twenty-six years now I have been writing, and I’m still telling stories about the delicious weeds from my garden, autumn mushrooms, joys of skiing, the magic of watching the lake freeze over, melting away again in spring.

Not much has changed here over these decades. That’s a big part of the joy that comes with living in the forest, far from civilization.

V

For many years, Viki Mathers and her husband Allan operated Kukagami Lodge, a wonderful off the grid retreat reachable only by boat. They sold the lodge in 2012. They can still be reached by email at: kukagami@gmail.com or visit their website: http://kukagamilodge.blogspot.com/

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